Circular Breathing

Warning: While circular breathing is a neat gimmick, it is just a gimmick. If overused it can get in the way of good playing. It is very important that a saxophonist develop great breath control and a good command of long tones — circular breathing must not substitute for this. Also, one should not attempt to learn circular breathing until he or she has developed a strong and stable embouchure. This is not for beginners. It could result in damage to the player. OK. Now to the basic concept. Circular breathing is the act of expelling air held in the mouth, while at the same time taking air into the lungs.

  1. Stand in front of a sink, take a drink of water, and hold the water in your mouth. While holding the water in your mouth, breath normally. (This should be very easy.)
  2. While inhaling air, spit out the water. (This shouldn't be too hard either-a little like patting your head while rubbing your stomach.)
  3. Now do step 2, but this time with air in your mouth.
  4. Now try to keep the air coming out of your mouth continuously while taking several breaths.
  5. Now you've got the idea. The next step is to make the air stream smooth while inhaling.

Notice that all of this practice is done without the saxophone. I probably did these exercises every moring (just before brushing my teeth) for several months before I tried it with an instrument. The final step is to get each cycle of inhaling so smooth that you can't hear any breaks or changes in volume/pitch. Its that simple, but it takes patience. Good luck. —Steve Rosenthal